100th birthdays for two Uckfield Marys

Mary Grace
Mary Grace

Mary Susan Westwood, from the Copper Beech Care Centre, was born on January 26, 1915 in Wolverhampton. She joined the Auxiliary Fire Service in 1938 as a driver, observer and pump crew member while working with the Red Cross Library providing books for troops, learning skills and knowledge which she put to good stead later in her life.

Mary Susan Westwood with great niece Katharine Nightinggale

Mary Susan Westwood with great niece Katharine Nightinggale

She then joined the ATS (later the WRAC) and trained new intakes as a Lance Corporal but gained steady promotion through the ranks to Second Lieutenant. She looked after a company office and checked company accounts on audit boards, returning on compassionate leave in 1945 when her mother was ill.

After the war Mary became a case worker for SSAFA (Soldiers,’ Sailors’ and Airmen’s’ Families Association) which continued for 40 years and she earned a certificate from SSAFA in recognition of her work. She also resumed her work with the OSJ and BRCS Hospital Library Department. With the advent of the NHS, it was felt that some basic training in librarianship was advisable. So she attended a course in 1953 and was awarded the Rosamund Brown Cup. After work with the Hospital Library Department she ran the campaign office for the local Conservative Association.

Mary was awarded the MBE for her work with a housebound library service.

Mary Grace was born in London on January 3, 1915.

She grew up speaking French and English. Her father was a cabinet maker who came from Paris before World War I to set up the family business in North London and Mary grew up in a bi-lingual family, returning every year to France for holidays.

She worked for McAlpine and Sons as a buyer and her skills enabled her to be responsible for ordering supplies for the construction of the Mulberry Harbours used at the time of the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944.

Mary puts her long life down to hard work and exercise and her varied interests have included voluntary work, gardening and music. She moved to Sussex with her husband in 1977 and after living in Newhaven and Lewes finally settled in Uckfield in 1994.

Fr Stephen Hardaker, Deacon David Tutt and Uckfield mayor Cllr Ian Smith joined family members, neighbours and friends from St Philip’s Church, the Holy Cross Friendship Group and the Luxford Club for tea at the Civic Centre followed by lunch at The Shelleys Hotel in Lewes.